Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam's Company Reportedly Has $4 Billion in Debt

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

Dec 2, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam shakes hands with fans before the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum. The Browns defeated the Raiders 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Haslam's status as owner of the Cleveland Browns has been on shaky ground in recent months, and its taken a serious turn for the worse with a recent report on his company's financial standing.

According to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer via the Wall Street Journal, Pilot Flying J, a joint venture of which Haslam is the chairman and CEO, has $4 billion in debt.  

This isn't the first issue to be reported regarding Pilot Flying J. According to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports, the FBI has been investigating Haslam's truck-stop chain for rebate fraud, and some of the company's executives have already pleaded guilty.

Haslam, already with minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers, bought the Browns in August of 2012 for a reported $1 billion. The 59-year-old currently owns 70 percent of the Cleveland franchise while former majority owner Randy Lerner retained 30 percent.

According to Forbes, Pilot Flying J is one of the nation's largest private companies, totaling $29 billion in sales with 20,000 employees and 500 truck stops in the U.S. and Canada.  Haslam's family owns a 59 percent stake in the company, and Haslam himself owns 35 percent of that stock.

Having so much negative press surrounding Pilot Flying J certainly couldn't have been good for business, and the company's dire financial straits confirm that. According to Katzowitz, Pilot Flying J's credit rating has been downgraded and it is now considered to be a significant investment risk.

Pilot Flying J's debt doubled over a two-year period, per Pluto's report:

The company's debt nearly doubled to $4 billion in a two-year period through last year, as its owners paid themselves two payments totaling $1.7 billion from it, according to Moody's.

Despite his company's financial issues, Haslam doesn't seem to believe that he will be crippled by the debt, reportedly claiming that the debt can be paid down quickly. 

As of now, Pilot Flying J is still operating and Haslam is still the owner of the Browns. According to Katzowitz, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that there are no plans to remove Haslam from ownership of the team.

It remains to be seen if Pilot Flying J's problems will force Haslam to remove himself from ownership, but as of Monday afternoon, it appears that he will be the Browns' owner for the immediate future. 


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